Professor Emeritus, Department of Spanish & Portuguese (Retired) / Author, University of Toronto, ON. Born: Jamaica.
Dr. Keith Ellis taught Latin American Literature and Culture at the University of Toronto, from 1963 to 2000. Specializing in Latin American poetry and the short story, he is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the poetry of Caribbean writer, Nicolás Guillén.
In 1998, he made history by becoming one of the few scholars to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the 270-year-old University of Havana. In 1994, he was a Visiting Professor at Stanford University. Professor Ellis has lectured at many universities, including Yale, Cambridge, and the University of the West Indies campuses, Bordeaux. He has published eighteen books and more than 100 scholarly articles, and his poetry has been featured in various journals and books.
Affiliations: Honorary Member, Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (2005); Juror, Casa de las Americas Literary Prize (1988); Canadian Association Latin American Studies; Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association; Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, Royal Ontario Museum.
Honours: Including Andrés Bello Medal (2010); Dulce María Loynaz International Prize (2010); Medal, University of Havana (2010); inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada 2 (2006); Nicolás Guillén Medal (2002); Honorary Doctorate Fil., University of Havana (1998); Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (1988); Medal of Distinction for national culture, Cuba (1998); Canadian Hispanists’ Prize, Best Book; Medal, City of Poitiers, France (1978). He is the first Black person to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a group of the top professors in the country, elected by their peers.
Works: Including, First Poet of the Americas: José María Heredia (2010); José Martí, Free Verses (2010); Poetas del Caribe inglés (2009); Nicolás Guillén: A Bilingual Anthology (2004); Nueve escritores hispanoamericanos ante la opción de construir (2003); A Cuban Poet at Niagara Falls (1997); The Role of Science in Cuban Culture (1995); Nicolás Guillén: New Love Poetry (1994); Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989): A Life of Poetic Service (1991); Cuba’s Nicolás Guillén: Poetry and Ideology (1985).
Education: PhD (1962); MA, University of Washington (1961); BA, University of Toronto (1958).
Favourite book? My book on nine Spanish American writers, because it shows how writing can contribute to the defense of humanity.
Favourite quote? “When we get to these later years in life, there is no time to waste.” – Fidel Castro
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Become an ophthalmologist.
Who inspires you? People who do constructive things on behalf of humanity.
Why do you do what you do? Because I believe it is useful to humanity.